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SUBJECTS: 62 Joseph Syler and 63 Ruth E. (Syler) Mann
AUTHOR: Nida A. Marshall
DATE: ~August 13, 1955

Newspaper Clipping Records First Commencement Exercise in Burkeville College in 1880
Newspaper Clipping Records First Commencement Exercise in Burkeville College in 1880
Newspaper Clipping Records First Commencement Exercise in Burkeville College in 1880


BURKEVILLE, Tex. Aug 13 (Spl) -- The first known account of a commencement exercise of the Blum Male and Female College, believed to have taken place about 75 years ago in 1880, is revealed in a newspaper clipping which has been uncovered in a scrapbook belonging to the late Mrs. Sudie Jackson of Burkeville.

Blum college, named in honor of a Mr. Blum, a Galveston wholesale dry goods merchant, who had purchased more stock individually than any of the stockholders for the support of the school, was the first school established in the town of Burkeville, 14 miles north of Newton in Newton County, once the county seat of the County.

Chartered in 1880

Chartered Feb. 26, 1880, incorporators of the college were M. D. Hines, R. J. Brailford and Tom W. Ford.

Written examinations or tests were unknown at the school, but were given orally at the closing exercises of the college which enrolled pupils from five to 50 years of age.

The "Mr. and Mrs. Syler" referred to in the newspaper clipping were Joseph F. Syler, the first president of Blum, and his wife, Mrs. Ruth E. Syler, who also taught at the college.

Referred to in a research prepared by Mrs. Veigh Lewis Miller and a thesis prepared by Mrs. Mattie Miller, Burkeville school teachers, who wrote on educational subjects, the clipping is undated, but it is believed to be an account of the first or one of the first commencement exercises.

Under the headline, "Closing Scenes at the College," the account of the three-day affair follows:

Last Wednesday morning, the time announced for the commencement of the Blum College examinations, dark clouds in the west betokened coming rain, but before noon the rifting vapors paled to soft, silvery shade, and that day and the two succeeding ones were days fair, even in a poet's wish.

Early Assembly

"The pupils and their parents and friends and many home spectators assembled in the college some getting there prior to the usual "time for books," and there were visitors too, from many adjoining neighborhoods and towns -- all come to see and hear examinations.

"The exercises began at 9:30 a.m. with the primary classes under Mr. Syler's supervision. An English grammar class, where members ranged in age from five to 12 years, was first upon the stage. Their department bespoke good culture in social decorum; and, they were far from being ignorant of "how to speak the English language correctly."

"The same class was then questioned in geography, in which they proved themselves more proficient, perhaps, than many a teacher who instructs under the claims of "first-class certificates."

"Other exercises of minor import comsumed the remainder of the day.

"Thursday morning the more advanced classes were questioned by Prof. Syler and Rev. J. T. Browning, the latter having been invited to assist in the excercises. They questioned classes in English grammar, arithmetic, English philosophy, the classes being reasonably well versed in the two former branches, while their knowledge of the latter was exceedingly good.

"In the afternoon other classes in arithmetic, algebra, rhetoric and history, exhibited a creditable familiarity with the contents of their books, the class in history being almost perfect.

"Friday morning were classes in history, algebra and geometry, each of which class was reasonably proficient; and, the rapidity and apparent ease with which the algebra class rattled along through the examples tended to remind one of some delayed banquet whose class of cutlery and rapidly moving hands bespoke both ease and pleasure in making short work of what was before them.

"Friday's afternoon exercises began with the reading of essays by the young lady pupils.

"Miss Sallie Woods, whose subject was "Friendship" beautifully protrayed that happiness which naturally comes of clever association, her composition being in symphony with her subject.

"Writing," by Miss Minnie Nations, was ably dealt with as a subject whose importance has had no superior among the arts of all ages.

"Methods," by Miss Lula Smith, presented a fine conception of what should accompany one's efforts toward the accomplishment of any undertaking.

"Hope," a brief but successful effort by Miss Fannie McMahon was of a pathetic cast, the tenor of which most beautifully connected the present life with that beyond.

Mary Syler's Essay

"Pride" by Miss Mary Syler evinced the superior originality of diction, laconically hinting on the inconsistencies of domestic economy, etc.

"Education," by Miss Sudie McWhorter, nicely referred to many of the pleasures and benefits accruing from the continuous study of that which is useful and good.

"The valedictory, 'Goodbye' by Miss Lena McMahon w[?? ??] that emotional pathos [??] up from the kindly he[?? ??] farewell leave is being taken by parting friends.

"Following these were declamations by Masters Don Curtis, Burr Liles, Claiborn Antony, C. C. Woods, J. B. McMahon and W. S. Windham, the closing address being delivered by Rev. J. T. Browning.

"During the evening, music was gracefully sandwiched in "between each act," as the old stager would say, by the Burkeville String Band, whose kindly visit was much appreciated by all present.

"The whole affair certainly reflects favor upon Prof. Syler and his wife as able teachers, upon the whole school as being obedient and industrious students and upon the patrons, as being harmoniously united and properly appreciating the benefits of such a school."

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